Donald Sensing has some interesting thoughts on the flag waving debate seen on Winds of Change and Sgt Stryker. Don observes,

My father and my father-in-law are both World War II vets. My father-in-law saw heavy ground combat; he made eight combat amphibious assaults in the Pacific. My dad did not see combat even though he served aboard a battleship and an aircraft carrier in the Pacific theater. I would say that Ambrose’s observation is pretty accurate. Both men are very patriotic, but they hardly talk about it. I don’t recall that either wearing so much as a flag lapel pin on their business suits. Privately, they probably agree with the sentiment, “America, love or leave it,” but they don’t say it, and they don’t plaster, “These colors don’t run” bumper stickers on their cars.

My sentiments line up pretty closely with those of Don and Stryker. I tend not to be impressed with gratuitious flag waving, which seems almost always to be done by people who have never served in the military. I think Toby Keith is a yahoo who’s making big money with big talk that he’s never had to live up to:

Oh, Justice will be served and the battle will rage.
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
You’ll be sorry that you messed with the US of A
‘Cuz we’ll put a boot in your ass
It’s the American way.

What you mean “We,” kimo sabe?

I find the post-9/11 practice of having Major League ballplayers, of whom nearly half are non-US citizens, wear US flags on their uniforms rather silly. Such things almost always strike me as crass unless situation-appropriate. It made sense in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, which was a time of national unity and healing. But, after a while, they become mindless, and thus meaningless, ritual.

I’m reminded of George Carlin’s quip that symbols are for the symbol minded.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    It ain’t no “Shoulda Been a Cowboy”, that’s for sure.

  2. Courtney says:

    Well, my mom thinks Toby Keith is really hot. That pretty much killed any possibility I would like him.

  3. Hm. It seems to me that a flag here and there can be a way of supporting the military, rather than riding its coattails.

    I put a flag on my car–and a “Let’s Roll” bumpersticker–as we were gearing up for the second Gulf War. Just to counteract the “War Is Not the Answer” people.

  4. Steven says:

    I think that the issue is one of degree. I often wear a flag lapel pin as a general statement of support.

  5. James Joyner says:

    I agree. I’m mainly reacting to people who make a big deal about how patriotic they are.